Meta analysis supports role of HMB in maintaining muscle health for seniors

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - iammotes
©Getty Images - iammotes

Related tags protein absorption protein supplements muscle building healthy aging

Recent evidence continues to bolster the anti aging benefits of HMB, which has served to bolster market acceptance of the ingredient.

The ingredient, marketed as myHMB, was invented under the aegis of Metabolic Technologies, a company spun off from Iowa State University that is now part of ingredient developer and distributor TSI USA.

HMB, or β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate, is naturally produced in the body during the metabolism of the essential amino acid leucine, which is found in virtually all protein sources. It has been studied as a standalone ingredient since the 1990s.

Research continues to elucidate effects

Early research done on myHMB showed that HMB supplementation can lead to beneficial effects in muscle function and athletic capacity.  In a 2016 study done on judo competitors and wrestlers​ the researchers concluded that, “The results indicate that supplying HMB promotes advantageous changes in body composition and stimulates an increase in aerobic capacity.” 

More recent research shows that HMB combined with vitamin D3 can help elderly subjects improve muscle function​ even in the absence of exercise.

Now the most recent research on the ingredient further bolsters that story. Researchers associated with Chongqing Medical University in China conducted a meta analysis of nine studies that included 448 total participants. The researchers found that HMB supplementation increased fat free mass in older people​ independent of an exercise stimulus, which indicates that it could be an effective tool for managing sarcopenia, or muscle wasting in older people.

Putting the protein train back on the rails

HMB is a metabolite of leucine and so can simulate the ingestion of massive amounts of the base protein sources.  This fact has made it more and more attractive in the healthy aging sphere, said Shawn Baier chief operating officer of Metabolic Technologies.

Baier likened the issue with protein supplementation for older people to a factory that has some bottlenecks in its production process.  Older individuals metabolize protein less effectively, so higher dosages are recommended.  But even those higher dosages are less well utilized, and the downward spiral continues until an older person who might be eating less in general can’t take in enough protein to stay ahead of the curve.

“The concept of protein for older people has been that more is always better.  But if you have a truck showing up every day with the building blocks and the machinery isn’t there to use those it doesn’t help.  With HMB, and its ability to simulate much higher leucine dosages, we see an increase in protein synthesis and a reduction in protein breakdown,”​ Baier told NutraIngredients-USA.

“There is a balance between protein synthesis and protein breakdown and with aging it moves more toward breakdown.  HMB supplementation can help shift that back toward what it looked like when you were younger,” ​he added.

Baier said HMB has shown clear benefits in a strict sports nutrition setting with research done on active young adults or those actually engaged in competitive sports. But he said many studies involving older subjects, such as the studies included in the Chinese meta analysis, either have not included an exercise component or did not have robust methods for administering the exercise routines or measuring their effects.  Thus, the Chinese meta analysis said, “[T]he effect of HMB supplementation combined with exercise therapy to improve muscle mass is not obvious.”

Newer delivery forms gaining traction in market

Dr Naji Abumrad, MD, co-founder of Metabolic Technologies and a practicing surgeon and professor at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the development of an additional form of the ingredient now makes it available for use in beverages, which could help for seniors who may find swallowing pills difficult or distasteful.

“The original format of HMB was in a calcium salt that was an insoluble powder.  So for the longest time that was the delivery mode and it was in capsules. Even at Abbott, when they wanted to put it in a medical food, they had to develop a technology to encapsulate the HMB so that it wouldn’t appear as precipitated granules,” he said.

“Now we have been able to formulate HMB as an acid ​[branded as both myHMB Clear and BetaTOR].  It’s completely soluble and the buffering you need to put it into a beverage is minimal,” ​he said.

That led to one of the most recent product launches with the ingredient, a bottled water fortified with HMB.  The brand, called Nirvana, advertises water that comes straight from a spring in the Adirondack Mountains in New York State.  The version that contains HMB contains 600 mg of the ingredient per serving, and the only other ingredients are the natural mineral water itself and a small amount of the buffering agents sodium bicarbonate, potassium citrate and choline bitartrate.

Nirvana has added Dr Abumrad as chairman of its newly constituted Scientific Advisory Board.

Source: European Geriatric Medicine
doi: 10.1007/s41999-020-00409-9
Effects of oral administration of β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate on lean body mass in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Authors: Lin Z, Zhao Y, Chen Q

NIU Healhty Aging

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